Race, Religion, and the Republican Dilemma
Image: Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Evangelicals talk a lot about the importance of voting for the right political candidates, particularly ones who will defend life and liberty. Rightfully so.

For many evangelicals, this means supporting pro-life candidates. In 2016, pro-life candidates almost all belong to the same party. This is fine if you believe the GOP represents you and your community. But for many minorities, the Republican Party is indifferent to the issues that affect their communities the most.

The accepted belief about race and presidential voting is that people of color will inevitably vote for a Democrat. Since 1980, the GOP has only received more than 13 percent of the minority vote twice: 18 percent for George Bush Sr. and 17 percent for George W. Bush’s second election.

In response to this reality, some pundits have argued that conservatives should simply concede that they will not receive the minority vote and focus their attention elsewhere. Others argue that the GOP has a lot to gain from actively courting black voters. With racial tensions increasing over the last few years, the racial divide between political parties has become an additional source of tension, not only within politics but in our culture, and even our churches. This fact was made clear to me recently as I have seen several of my conservative, Christian, black friends express interest in Bernie Sanders.

Their attraction to Sanders was not because they wanted “free stuff,” as some critics of Sanders have assumed, but because Sanders seems to be one of the few candidates to take racial issues seriously, and voters generally want their representatives to take their concerns seriously. Of course evangelicals have the option to vote Democrat, but it would be better if minorities also felt represented by the GOP. That they are not, strikes me as tragic and a sign of a deeper sickness in our country, not because my friends might support Sanders, but because the GOP has done so little to demonstrate that the challenges minority communities face matter to them.

Setting aside the very real possibility that the GOP will cease to exist in a few decades if it does not reach out to minorities, the more immediate and important reason to engage in such outreach is that it is essential for the health of our nation. If the Republican Party does not acknowledge and address the concerns of minorities as a priority, they can expect many of them to feel alienated not only from a political party but also from the its members and their values. And that would be the true tragedy. Conservatives have the opportunity to help heal our country’s racial divide by demonstrating that the GOP is not an exclusive party.

There is a popular belief among conservatives that conservative policies will make the lives of minorities better without having to create policies to specifically address the concerns of those minorities, so long as they work hard and abide by the law. The assumption is that whatever is ailing minorities is either already addressed in conservative policies or is the fault of the minorities. The possibility that there may be issues specific to minority communities that can be addressed by the government is often overlooked or avoided.

Consider, when have any of the GOP presidential candidates addressed the concerns of black voters? I can think of a couple of notable examples, but these are exceptions, not the norm. And even these exceptions are brief side issues, rather than platform issues. At a time when so many in our nation are concerned about race, criminal justice, and immigration, it is unacceptable to make these issues secondary.

Dual Citizen
Every week in Dual Citizen, O. Alan Noble considers the relationship between our role as heavenly and earthly citizens.
Alan Noble
O. Alan Noble, Ph.D., is editor in chief of Christ and Pop Culture and an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University. He received his Ph.D. from Baylor in 2013. He and his family attend City Presbyterian in OKC. You may not follow him on Twitter.
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Race, Religion, and the Republican Dilemma